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When Twitter launched, it asked users a simple question: what are you doing? Blippy, a new startup co-founded by Philip Kaplan of F*cked Company fame, asks an equally simple question: what are you buying?
A bevy of high-profile investors, including Twitter co-founders and CEO Ev Williams, are betting that internet users won't be able to resist answering Blippy's question. They've funded the company to the tune of $1.6m.
Blippy works by allowing users to link their Blippy account to their accounts at popular online services including iTunes, Amazon.com and Netflix. Users can also link a credit card or bank account to Blippy. Once linked, Blippy will automatically track and share purchases. To address the obvious privacy concerns that might arise, users can pause sharing and hide specific purchases that they don't want the rest of the world to know about.
The first thing you'll notice about Blippy is that much of the design, functionality and overall experience mimics Twitter. The profile page design, for instance, is clearly based on Twitter's and there's also a suggested user list. While you can blame Blippy from taking its cue from Twitter, it's a bit of a clone and that, to me at least, is uninspiring.
From an overall experience perspective, Blippy seems to be missing something. Twitter is like a huge chat room. While there's a lot of noise, there's plenty of signal as well, from insightful conversations to interesting links. In short, Twitter offers a nice combination of social interaction and content discovery. Blippy? I'm not sure what to make of it. After following some of the suggested users, I failed to find anything of interest. For instance, I don't really know what I'm supposed to do with the knowledge that Leo LaPorte purchased an A-DATA Turbo 16 GB Class 6 microSDHC Flash Memory Card with SD Adapter from Amazon.com.
Which brings up an important point: even though there are lots of people who won't share their purchases publicly, I think there are plenty who will consider it. For that reason, Blippy is just one of many websites we'll see trying to make consumer commerce more social.
But there absolutely has to be an appropriate level of value provided in return, especially if users are going to share information that is often very personal, like their purchases. A good example a company that provided value in exchange for personal data is Mint.com. By linking financial accounts to Mint.com, Mint.com provides its users with helpful tools that can help them better manage their money. Blippy lacks that same sort of value and in my opinion, is unlikely to succeed unless it finds a way to take the purchasing data users share and return real value to them.
The good news is that in our sharing-friendly internet culture, there are countless opportunities to take this type of data and do some really interesting and cool things with it. Inevitably, some startups will seize those opportunities.